Tips for being a better GM and player for D&D 5e or a TTRPG can be as abstract as thinking outside the box or as concrete as using specific software to make things easier – I’m going to give you both. Starting D&D, or any TTRPG for that matter, can be complicated, but that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing the best graphics engine in gaming: your imagination.
I’ve written many tips on the best virtual tabletop software, how to choose your soundtracks, how to create a D&D character, and much more, all listed below. This article will be updated weekly with tips, tricks, and any advice that will come through my new series: Tabletop Tips from an Anxious GM.
If you have a question that isn’t answered by looking at this list, ask me! Send me your questions about mechanical, narrative or social issues in the gaming room on the table. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter†
A lot of D&D or TTRPG stuff I cover isn’t listed here because it’s not technical tips. For example, if you’re interested in video games adjacent to D&D, check out my Life is Strange: True Colors Reviewwith a character who is canonically a Critter (Critical Role fan), and there’s also my Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Review, which is not only D&D inspired, but also features Critical Role guests like Ashly Burch. However, if you want something that will really scratch that D&D video game itch, check it out Baldur’s Gate 3†
Without further ado, here are some of my best D&D tips for being a better GM and player in 5e – or any TTRPG.
Tips for playing DND 5e or any TTRPG
1. How to play D&D or any TTRPG online?
If you’re brand new to the tabletop gaming space and eager to jump into role playing without exposing yourself to the risks of personal gaming amid the ongoing pandemic, I’ve got you covered. Since D&D and all TTRPGs are basically pen-and-paper games, you only need to talk to people to run a session, but there are many resources on the web that will make your experience as seamless as playing in person.
First, the Internet is your player’s handbook. Yes, D&D and most TTRPGs can have an incredible amount of rules, but the best thing about a TTRPG is that you can just throw those rules out the window. Don’t worry too much about what’s right and wrong – just have fun. Second, find a virtual tabletop (check out the tips below for details). Third, make your character magazine a seamless experience with tools on D&D Beyond, a D&D 5e book purchase and character creation website, or use Adobe Acrobat for more customization. Then use Discord to manage your games. Finally, if you’re a GM, don’t misuse the resources of the internet – there are so many great tools online to make GMing much easier.
View detailed advice here — How to play D&D online†
2. What is the best virtual table software?
You don’t necessarily need the best virtual tabletop software to enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons (or any other tabletop role-playing game out there) but it certainly helps. As a game master, I know how important it is to know which virtual tabletop works best for your group and the type of game you’re playing. I’ve bounced between some of them, so I can help you decide which is the best virtual tabletop software to use for your needs.
There are quite a few great virtual tabletop programs out there, but finding the best one for your particular game is more important than just using the most expensive one. My personal favorite is Foundry Virtual Tabletop for its customizability and relatively affordable price. It also integrates smoothly with content from D&D Beyond and I love the way it handles its music player. However, if you’re looking for free, easy-to-use software, try Roll20.
View detailed advice here — Best Virtual Table Software†
3. How to set up webcams for D&D or a TTRPG
For better or worse people play D&D and other TTRPGs online because… well, most of us are stuck. Unfortunately, playing TTRPGs online is not the same as playing in real life with your best friends. However, if you have a good webcam and a decent setup, playing online can provide a similar experience to playing in person.
It sounds simple, but optimizing your setup to capture all your micro-expressions and make sure you don’t miss a second of those beautiful people on screen takes a lot more work than you think. It’s especially difficult if you don’t have a good webcam or multiple monitors. I firmly believe that no one should pay $200 for a webcam, so consider the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920which you can find for just under $90. You won’t get 4K video, but you’ll get 1080p and a wide field of view, which is good enough to show off your gorgeous face to your D&D group.
View detailed advice here — D&D Tech Tips: Setting Up Webcams†
4. How do you make a D&D 5e character?
I took a deeper dive into creating a D&D character and the best combinations of class, race and background. To be clear, a good GM won’t judge you on playing any combination of class, race, and background that interests you. But if you’re taking part in a combat-heavy campaign, consider maximizing your character’s potential. With the recent release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything sourcebook, there’s a seemingly endless number of combinations.
The D&D Player’s Handbook, as well as other D&D resources, starts by letting you pick a race, but it’s preferable to pick a class first, as that’s an important factor that determines how you’ll play the game. In the full article, I’ll briefly explain each class and recommend some of the best subclasses for those classes so you have an idea of where to take the character when the time comes. I also talk about the best races and backgrounds that fit those classes.
For example, one of the best subclasses for Sorcerer is Draconic Bloodline because it gives you a huge boost to your AC (Armor Class). Playing a Half-Elf gives you a boost in Charisma and an ability called Fey Ancestry, which gives you Advantage (the ability to roll twice and take the higher number) when saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep. When you combine that with a pirate background, you become an all-round badass.
View detailed advice here — How do you make a D&D character?†
5. New D&D Rules Coming in 2024: What Are Some Rules to Add Now?
For those who don’t know, Wizards of the Coast has revealed that a new D&D ruleset is coming in 2024. This new ruleset, predicted to be the size of a D&D 5.5e or D&D 6e, was announced by D&D executive producer Ray Winninger at the Future of D&D panel. We don’t know much about what the ruleset entails, but we do know that it is backwards compatible with D&D 5th Edition, which is great news for those who have invested a lot in 5e (like me). But you know, this ruleset isn’t coming out for a few years, so why wait when you can add new rules yourself?
If you haven’t already, check out Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and add those new rules as they add a whole new realm of possibilities for players. Some popular homebrew rules I’ve added to my game include: Drinking potions as a bonus action; Using Spell Points instead of Spell Slots; Get maximum damage on your first set of dice on critical hits; Have players swap initiative roles with each other before the battle begins; Making Resurrection more rigorous using the Critical Role method.
View detailed advice here — Here are some D&D rules to add today†
6. What are the best soundtracks for D&D and TTRPG scenarios?
I like Dungeons & Dragons and TTRPGs like Call of Cthulhu and Star Trek Adventures, but nothing bores me more than the absence of a good soundtrack. I’m proud of my music choices in my D&D campaigns, so I want to talk about how you can easily pick the best soundtracks for each scenario in your own TTRPG campaign.
Picking the perfect songs for a TTRPG scenario isn’t as hard as it seems, but it can be time consuming if you’re as picky as I am. I run my sessions like drama, so I have music queued for every beat of the story, but I also have songs ready when my players do something unexpected and there needs to be a pitch shift. The soundtracks I select are from hit games like The Witcher 3, Skyrim and even Hollow Knight. If any of these even remotely fancy you, you and I may have similar tastes.
View detailed advice here — Best D&D Soundtracks for Every Scenario†
7. How do I involve my players?
“How do I involve my players?” is one of many complex game questions on the table that you get general answers from game masters. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression — a combination that isn’t ideal for a journalist or game master juggling seven different players in a six-hour Dungeons & Dragons game — I want to thoroughly disentangle these issues with my experiences.
If your players aren’t paying attention, throw the world at them. Show them that it will go on without them. Be tactful and respectful, of course, but there’s nothing players love more than feeling like they’re part of a living world. If everything players experience is a reaction to their actions, the game will not feel as real and players can easily get into the mindset that they have the world under control. Show them they aren’t.
View detailed advice here — How do I involve my players?†